Parents: If you want to improve turnouts get your kids to the ballot!
2,400 or so years ago an ancient Greek, possibly the philosopher Socrates, said:
“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”
People often complain about the youth of today, imagining things were better when they were young. The evidence of the last few millennia though suggests otherwise.
However, there is one way today’s young have clearly fallen behind earlier generations of youngsters. According to the British Election Study, it is only since 1997 that young people really got out of the habit of voting.
More worryingly, a report commissioned by the Electoral Commission from Essex University states that the habit of not voting isn’t a passing phase that the young will grow out of. It is a habit they are holding on to as they age:
“the effective British electorate is becoming progressively older, election by election. Moreover, it seems unlikely that this is a ‘life cycle effect’ in which currently young non-voters will turn into voters as they get older. On the contrary, the spread of relatively high levels of non-voting to all three of the younger cohorts suggests that, over the last 30 years or so, habits of non-voting acquired in youth have tended to be carried forward into middle age – and will perhaps continue even into old age.”
Changes with individual registration of voters could even compound this problem after the next election, when people who haven’t registered in their own right (as opposed to having registration done for them as part of a household) will be removed from the electoral register.
Bu in any case for political parties, doing more to attract the support of younger voters is going to be particularly worth it in certain constituencies, where 18-24 year olds can be nearly a quarter of voters:
And it’s particularly worth it in the 95 constituencies where just 1 in 10 non-voters voting for the second placed candidate would topple an MP (all other things being equal):
According to a report for the Electoral Commission by Essex University, after the 2005 General Election:
“The single most powerful way in which turnout in British general elections could be increased would be to increase the sense of civic duty among the young, particularly among the under 40s.”
Come on parents, surely in this 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta, that can’t be so hard? So if you have kids, remind them of their Civic Duty! If you need help, you could always try this approach: